Hippo Manchester
October 6, 2005

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In Her Shoes (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette play sisters shopping on opposite ends of the size chart in In Her Shoes, a chick flick that seriously disturbs me and is an adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s novel of the same name.

In Her Shoes is, in many ways, Sense and Sensibility with more sex and a serious interest in Jimmy Choos. Oh, right, and a total lack of the proto-feminism that makes Jane Austen’s romance novels clever little social commentaries that just happen to have a happy ending.

Rose (Collette), the fat sister, is, of course, responsible and smart and hard-working and successful in her professional life. So successful, in fact, that she can tend to her personal emotional cuts and bruises with expensive and sexy shoes. Shoes that very much appeal to Maggie (Diaz), Rose’s thin and sexy and dumb-as-paint younger sister. Well, of course, Maggie’s not really dumb and Rose isn’t really a frump but we’ll need many a you-go-girl journey to get us to that realization. And, like all stories of self-realization, first comes the pain and humiliation: Maggie crashes at Rose’s after her drunkenness gets her thrown out of her father’s home. Rose pushes her sister to get a job but Maggie’s only interested in having fun — namely, after a fight with Rose, Maggie has a little fun with Rose’s tentative-boyfriend-guy. Rose kicks Maggie out and Maggie heads to Florida to find the grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) she never knew she had.

Maggie gets a chance to reinvent herself with the no-nonsense but loving help of her grandmother and Rose, devastated by Maggie’s betrayal, decides that this is just a martyrdom too far and decides to give herself a self-esteem makeover.

In Her Shoes is essentially porn — a specific porn that like midget porn or girl-on-girl porn is aimed at a specific audience, namely, fat girls. Fat girls (or nerdy girls or whatever — “fat girls” is really just short for “girls who don’t look like Cameron Diaz”) want, so the movie industry is telling us, a tale of a fat girl who despite the crippling handicap of being a fat girl is able to have her stylish clothes, her best friendship with her sister and her nice guy (yes, of course a nice guy shows up mid-second act to tell us what a doll our chubby heroine is) and her tasty, guiltless cake.

And, because for some girls, their 20s aren’t a non-stop party and happy memories of romance are a rarity, the powers that be believe that girls will ignore or not notice the humiliation and condescension of this gooey, comforting brownie and just enjoy the fantasy goodness. I am one of those girls whose collection of action figures is bigger and more impressive than her collection of couture, who has more funny stories of self-effacing moments than tales of romantic adventure. And this movie, this movie made for always-the-bridesmaid-types such as myself, left me feeling dirty and insulted. Sure, cater to my daydreams of trying out the pretty-girl experience but is it really necessary to drag our characters through the mud first? Rose is displayed at her most unattractive and, where she could rightly voice anger at those who hurt her, the movie only allows her a sort of whininess. Maggie, meanwhile, pays for the sin of being a girl with a good figure by lacking both basic morality and basic reading skills.

I don’t recall the men in porn movies ever having to endure humiliation at the office and a roadside cavity search before they get home and bed the bunny-like next-door neighbor.